Three Members of the U.S. House Representatives wrote to Nepal’s government on December 9, 2011, asking that the rights of Tibetan refugees in Nepal be protected, and that it assent to resettling Tibetan refugees in the United States. The letters were posted on the website of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on February 16, 2012.
The letters, addressed to the President and Prime Minister of Nepal, were written by Representatives James McGovern (D-MA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA), co-chairs of the Commission, and Representative Joe Pitts (R-PA), a member of its Executive Committee. Their inquest came as a response to a Commission hearing with Kalon Tripa Lobsang Sangay, where he testified on the Central Tibetan Administration’s assessment of the challenges facing Tibetan refugees in Nepal.
Many long-staying Tibetan refugees in Nepal have not been granted legal documentation by the Nepalese government, frustrating their ability to work, own property and send their children to school. Newly arrived refugees from Tibet who normally transit through to India face an increasingly insistent campaign by the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu to have them forcibly returned over the border, where they would likely face detention and torture. (Refugee Report: Dangerous Crossing 2010)
Specifically, the letter asks that the government of Nepal:
- consent to a U.S. proposal to resettle certain Tibetan refugees in the United States, to help resolve the Tibetan refugee issue and benefit U.S.-Nepal relations;
- ensure continued support for the “Gentleman’s Agreement” which provides for the safe transit of Tibetan refugees through Nepal under the aegis of the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR), and for the Tibetan Refugee Reception Center, run by UNHCR; and
- enact a law governing the protection of refugees in the country, to provide a legal basis for policies to protect refugees in Nepal and provide clarity to neighboring and other countries.
According to its staff, the Commission has not received replies from the Nepal authorities to the letters.